Candidate Profile: Greg Paulmier
Patch profiles Greg Paulmier, one of seven candidates running for Philadelphia City Council from the 8th District.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series that will run throughout the week in which we publish question and answer sessions with each of the seven candidates in the 8th District's City Council race. Each candidate will answer the same five questions. We'll also run videos of the candidates talking specifically about Chestnut Hill issues.
Today's featured candidate is Greg Paulmier. Watch his video here, and remember, Election Day is May 17.
Tell us about your background and why you’re running for City Council.
Thirty-two years ago, I bought a house in the neighborhood where I lived my whole life. I was in college, working, and my father was a committee person, and he suggested I run and become a Democratic committee person. So I ran, and I won, and became a Democratic committee person.
I got a call about a week after I got elected, by a senior citizen on the 4400 block of Winona Street, who said she had a problem that she wanted me to deal with. She said I’m her new committee person and I campaigned to become a committee person because I said that I would be glad to work with people and deal with the problems in the neighborhood. So this woman called me and asked if I would come over and look at the problem.
I walked around the corner and here was this abandoned house. We’ve all seen them. They’re all over the place. She wanted me to deal with it, there were vagrants running in and out and so forth. So I told her I would call the city and make sure it got dealt with.
So I went home and I called the city and nothing happened, and a week went by… month went by… nothing happened. I kept telling her that I was talking to the city, trying to figure out what we were going to do.
I was able to track down the owners of the building, and I acquired it. So I hired some guys, I knew a guy who was a carpenter in the neighborhood and some electricians, and I knew a little bit of plumbing myself, I got a mortgage on the house I was living in and used the money to renovate this house, and I hired people in the neighborhood to help me do it.
We fixed the house up and as I was fixing it up, more and more people were coming to the door asking for work. Neighbors started asking what I was going to do with it… so we rented it out to people who needed housing until they could fix their credit to buy the house.
I got a reputation very quickly for being able to rehab abandoned house, so I’ve been doing it ever since, about one a year, creating jobs for people in the community, housing for people in the community, and growing the tax base, which is very important for police and firefighters and teachers. We need more revenue.
It really gave me a taste of what we needed to do in this part of the city. Jobs were needed. Houses were needed. People were tired of looking at these abandoned houses. And we needed more tax dollars.
So as a result of that experience, in time I became the Ward Leader for the 12th Ward, served for 16 years, I’ve been a committee person for 32. In that time I’ve come to realize that government is really not involved with the community. It’s not connected to the voters and the voters are feeling uncomfortable with that. As a result of my connection with the voters, I was able to do what I thought government should be doing, dealing with the crime issue, creating housing and jobs.
I tried to get the councilperson involved, never saw much interest, she didn’t think it was a very important issue in the community.
And people said, “Greg, you should run. You’re doing all these things in this neighborhood.”
I thought, that’s what I want to be. I want to be the example. I want to be part of a team of people engaging in the best interests of the community. As a result of all of my experiences, with the schools and the Boys and Girls club, renovating abandoned houses, being engaged with neighbors, rolling up my sleeves, I want to be known as the councilperson who is not afraid to get their hands dirty, working and engaging with the community. I believe they know what they want, and can be a part of designing the plan, then that plan will have more of a chance of success.
I’m a Quaker by religious affiliation, I believe in people. I believe in building consensus. And I believe in their different perspectives and I value them. If people decide which way they want to go, and you work with them on that, then the chance for success is much greater.
That’s why I think I am the best candidate for this position: because of my experience, because it’s taught me a little bit about what’s important, and because I’ve been very successful with it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I enjoy a great community here and I will always enjoy being a part of it.
How would you, as a City Council member, work with the School District of Philadelphia to improve students' performance?
Each school is a community, each one has a different set of problems and each one is unique. For example, facilities. I would meet with each one of the principals to see what their facilities need, whether it’s a leaky roof, or a PA sound system that doesn’t work, and I would talk to the principals about that. I would talk to the parents about it, and the kids about it. I would ask them to all be engaged in the process. I would get to know each school in the district and work with them to deal with the problems.
I would also connect the schools to the recreation centers, expanding the school day. I would make sure those recreation centers are funded, and connected to the schools, so when the kids get out of the school, it would be like switching gears. Maybe they wouldn’t be sitting in a classroom, instead they’d be on stage, doing a dance ensemble or a play. They’d be on the baseball field or the basketball court. But the day wouldn’t end at 2:30, it would end at 5 at night.
I would make sure they were open on the weekends, because some of the kids with behavior issues, who aren’t doing well in the classroom are often the kids that excel on the baseball field or on the stage, or tennis court.
I think if those kids are given those outlets, they often will be the kids that will sit still. If they have that hope to look forward to. For some kids it’s a book or a computer, for other kids it’s a baseball bat or a skateboard or a script.
In the city's budget, where would you like to see more funding, and where do you think cuts should be made?
I think that we need to take care of some of the blight; there needs to be some money available for reclaiming these properties and creating jobs. I think economic development is critical.
I don’t think we can cut any money from economic development. I’m not so sure we need to be building any more stadiums or any more skyscrapers. I tend to believe that money that comes out of the neighborhoods needs to come back to the neighborhoods. What I’ve seen happen in our community is money leaving, in terms of us paying tax dollars, but less money coming back here to nurture our business districts, to nurture our schools and small businesses in the community.
I’d like to see a little more emphasis, a little more of the priority put on just that. Money needs to be cut, let’s make the stadium officers pay for their own police officers that they need before, during and after a game, I think they can afford it. I think we need to have the police out in the community, in the neighborhoods.
I think largely that our support for big business initiative needs to be cut back a little bit, I think we need to be careful that the millionaire sports teams and the Comcasts of the world, that we don’t feather their nests anymore than we have.
Where do you stand on DROP?
I’m all for it for city workers. I’m against any elected official getting it. They get enough perks, they get paid very well, and I don’t think they need the DROP program to attract people to run for local office. A good example of that is the 8th District. We have seven people running for this office. All seven of them are against the DROP program in one way or another, so I think that’s an example of why we don’t need to offer it to elected officials.
I strongly believe in DROP for city workers. I think they deserve a bonus, just like in private industry workers for people in the end of their work life. I believe in it for city workers, not for elected officials. It’s a huge shadow on all of our government in our city to have these elected officials taking advantage of the system like they are. These are the people who are supposed to be example of principles and morals. I’m strongly opposed to people who have taken the DROP and have run again. It’s not appropriate.
How would you work to fill vacant properties and revitalize business districts?
Business districts are a very important part of any community. They supply goods and services to any community if they are healthy districts. At the same time, they bring us all together on a regular basis. There is nothing better than a good commercial district to create a community dialogue. It’s invaluable to have some continuity just to have a dialogue. It’s an important part of where we find jobs.
I’m a strong advocate for business district, and that they have parking, that they’re clean and safe. That a business owner doesn’t have to worry about what happens outside they’re door. That’s it’s convenient to get there, that it’s got good lighting and good sidewalks, that the streets and the areas surrounding the districts are healthy and safe and comfortable, secure place to work in and to shop in.
They should be looked at as a vital tool to bring about a healthy community. I would do everything in my power to connect with business people and the communities surrounding them to find out what their problems are and how to fix them. I look forward to getting involved in each of the business districts along Germantown Avenue, along Stenton Avenue, but the business people and the neighbors must be involved so we can open a dialogue about how to make these districts a thriving community center.